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The Berlin Airlift 70 Years On

The end of the Berlin Airlift on September 30, 1949 marked a stunning, early victory in the Cold War. The crisis grew out of a plan by the United States, Britain, and France a year earlier to create a stable currency for western Germany. The Soviets reacted angrily, wanting to control the country's post-war economy. They cut off power, rail, road and water access to West Berlin, which lay deep inside the Soviet zone. President Harry S Truman rejected his generals' advice to launch a military confrontation and instead worked with the air forces of allied nations to launch the largest humanitarian airborne operation in history. The Americans called the bold plan "Operation Vittles,” while the British dubbed it “Plainfare.” Over 15 months, more than 200,000 planes delivered about 2.3 million tons of supplies to the beleaguered city, which convinced the Soviets to end their blockade.

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